Did you or did you not gasp when China’s Shen and Zhao faltered on that lift? I could hardly contain myself as I waited for their scores to find out if — after years of Russian domination in Olympic figure skating pairs — the married couple who’d come out of retirement to compete had won. I almost thought all my cheering for them on Facebook had been useless until I saw that beam of joy that Shen Xue is known for erupt from her face, accompanied by a magnificent scream!
You see, Russia has had a grip on pairs figure skating since the 1964 Games in Innsbruck. For the last 12 years, they’ve taken the gold. China entered the Olympic pairs skating scene just 26 years ago. And they stunk! Half of the first Chinese skating duo was Yao Bin. You can see video footage of the 1984 Olympic games online. Slow spins. Shaky lifts. One spill.
Yao Bin decided to become a coach with the goal of winning gold at the Olympics for his nation. All he had to do was drastically improve the Chinese skating program and unseat the powerhouse of Russia.
That’s where the story of skating looks like an allegory for marriage. You see, Russia entered these games with their hopes resting on a pair who was half true-blooded Russian and half Japanese-girl-turned-Russian-citizen-within-the-year-just-to-win. Can you say manipulation? Now, I don’t know the details and I’m sure it’s more complicated, but I just had a feeling that these two flawless skaters couldn’t pull it off. Manipulation, you see, is rarely a tool of winners. In marriage or on the ice.
China came to this year’s competition with Yao Bin coaching two skaters who might as well have been in wheelchairs when it comes to skating. He is 38. She is 31. Shen and Zhao were retired but came back just to compete.
The world’s winning-est team powered up by a Japanese world champion versus two retired, never-winning-gold Chinese teammates.
On February 15, 2010, Yao Bin cried great tears of joy when the team of Shen and Zhao took the gold, followed by another Chinese team who took silver.
Russia placed fourth.
I cried, too. I cried for Shen, Zhao, and Yao Bin. But I also cried because it reminded me to trust God with my marriage and family — rather than to manipulate things so I can win.